UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

UK government plan may interfere with Israel’s anti-terrorism laws

UKLFI is seeking clarification of a UK government plan which may interfere with Israel’s anti-terrorism laws.  UK Lawyers for Israel has asked the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) for further information regarding a new programme which appears to be intended to obstruct Israeli counter-terrorism legislation. If so, carrying out the programme may also constitute criminal offences under the UK’s own counter-terrorism legislation.

On 27 July 2018 the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) issued a statement saying it would double support for the Palestinian economy. Most of the programmes mentioned in this statement seem to be worthwhile, provided they are properly audited.

However, one of the programmes mentioned in the announcement is to “fund experts to help the Palestinian Authority work with the Government of Israel to unblock the transfer of taxes and custom revenues, estimated to be worth £220m per year from the Government of Israel to the Palestinian Authority”.

We suspect this is intended to prevent the application of legislation, similar to the US Taylor Force Act, passed by an overwhelming majority in the Israeli parliament on 2 July 2018. Under this legislation the Israeli government is to deduct from the taxes it collects on imports into the West Bank and Gaza Strip sums equal to the total salaries paid by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to terrorists.

If it is indeed the object of the DFID programme to prevent the application of this legislation, it may result in British Ministers and officials committing criminal offences contrary to sections 17 and 18 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (the Act). It would also be counterproductive and undermine the British government’s policy of promoting peace in the Middle East, as it would ensure that terrorism continues to be incentivised.

We have written to DFID Minister Alistair Burt MP, pointing out that obstructing the implementation of the Israeli legislation would result in making money available to the PA which those concerned in the arrangements must have reasonable cause to suspect may be used for the purposes of terrorism by rewarding terrorists for their terrorism, contrary to section 17 of the Act.

The programme would also facilitate the retention and control of terrorist property by the PA and by the recipients of terrorists’ salaries paid by the PA, in circumstances where British officials have reasonable cause to suspect that the arrangement relates to terrorist property, contrary to section 18 of the Act. “Terrorist property” is defined in section 14 of the Act as including payments or rewards for committing terrorist acts.

We have asked the Minister to provide full details of this proposed programme and, if he disputes our concerns that it is illegal, to explain why. We have also asked for confirmation that the terms of engagement of auditors of all of the programmes will be carefully examined and made available for public scrutiny.

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